Olin Business School Student Puts Love of Running to Work for Social Causes

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An entrepreneurship student at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis, and member of the university’s track team, launches a running apparel venture that will help fight world hunger.

Members of the Washington University in St. Louis cross country team are ready to run a race in the global marketplace with a goal to fight world hunger and water needs. Janji – the name means promise in Malay – is a socially conscious business that is launching a line of running apparel this month and will be available in more than 60 specialty running stores this summer.

“This public release is something we’ve been building towards for two years,” says Mike Burnstein an avid runner and one of the founders of Janji. Burnstein will graduate this month with a degree in urban studies and a minor in business from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. He developed Janji's business plan in an entrepreneurship course at Olin.

Company profits will go to fight world hunger and water needs.

“It is extremely exciting to finally release something that will have a global impact —providing clean water and nutrition to people who need it,” Burnstein says.

Janji aims to make a global impact on the food and water crisis through sales of its running apparel. The design of the shorts is based on the flags of the countries that will receive funds from the company, including Kenya and Haiti. With each piece of apparel sold proceeds go directly toward sustainable solutions.

For instance, eight days of nutrition are supplied when a runner buys a pair of the Haiti shorts.

Janji shorts will be sold in more than 60 running stores across the United States beginning this summer.

The idea for Janji began on the way to the 2010 Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, when Burnstein and fellow runner Dave Spandorfer were motivated by a vision to end the food and water crisis through the power of running.

“The inspiration for Janji was to connect runners to the global food and water crisis, which afflicts over a billion people,” says Spandorfer, a 2011 history and international business graduate. “We want to give runners something bigger to run for than their own personal performance.”

They chose the name, Janji, which means “promise” in Malay, because their organization is built on the promise to “run for another.”

From the beginning, Janji has had considerable start-up success by winning grants and business competitions, which led to nationwide recognition and the attention of many inspired running store owners.

Janji was awarded a total of $15,000 at the 2011 Youthbridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition (SEIC) at Washington University. The competition is a joint partnership between the YouthBridge Community Foundation and WUSTL’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

“Competing in the SEIC offered us more than funding,” Burnstein says. “It allowed us to refine our concept from a small idea to a sustainable business. Without that experience we wouldn’t exist.”

The YouthBridge SEIC is unique in St. Louis and, in terms of monetary awards, is one of the largest competitions of its kind in the United States.

Janji also won first place and $20,000 in the 2011 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Sports/Outdoors Business Plan Competition, beating out 15 other teams.

Janji is releasing its products nationwide this summer in select running stores, starting with the May 3 launch party at St. Louis’ Big River Running Company.

Runners are invited to be the first to view and purchase the new apparel, along with the opportunity to meet the young entrepreneurs who made their dream a reality.

The event begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at Big River Running, 14059 Manchester Road in Manchester, Mo.

For more information on Janji, visit runjanji.com. For more information about the May 3 launch, email Mike(at)RunJanji(dot)com.

For more information, visit the Olin Business School website:

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Neil Schoenherr
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